The Judgment: Two Paradigms, Hand in Hand

Before we were born on this earth, we lived with our Heavenly Father. While in his presence, we learned from him, and we grew in wisdom and knowledge. The time came that, to have additional growth, we needed to be in an environment in which we would live by faith rather than by knowledge. To provide that change, the Lord created this earth as our new home.

And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Abraham 3:24-25)

Notice that the Lord said that we would dwell on this earth to see if we would “do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” That is, mortality is a time of testing. In addition, the scriptures teach that we will stand before God to be judged by our works.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:12-13)

Two Viewpoints of the Judgment

When I hear Latter-day Saints talk about the judgment, I hear remarks coming from two perspectives. First, I hear comments implying that when we stand before God, he will place our lives on a “scale”. If our good actions outweigh our bad actions, we will receive blessings from Him. “I sure hope that when I stand before God, I’ll make it to the Celestial kingdom!”

In listening to the second viewpoint, I hear comments that our lives in mortality give us experience. Through this experience, we each determine the kingdom we will inherit, because we grow to become the type of person we chose to be.

Both Viewpoints Needed

Both viewpoints are reasonable interpretations of the scriptures. The first viewpoint, that of mortality being a testing ground, is taught throughout the scriptures. It was appropriate for the Hebrews and Nephites, because they were living under the Law of Moses and needed a stern concept of God. They needed the strength to develop self-discipline, strength that can come through looking forward to eternal rewards. Today, many LDS need need this strength to help them choose right from wrong and better live the gospel.

We Grow to Be Like Jesus

The second viewpoint concerns our growth. I think that as we grow in the gospel, we undergo changes in our attitudes toward God. I think that as we keep his commandments, our hearts grow in love to him and we desire to be like him. The Book of Mormon speaks of this change in our hearts. After speaking to his people, King Benjamin asked them if they believed him.

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:2)

Notice that the Spirit of the Lord caused a change in the hearts of the people, such that they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”   What a profound change in those people! They had progressed beyond the realm of self-control and resisting evil to one of doing good continually because yielding to temptation was no longer part of their personalities.  They had truly grown to become like Jesus Christ!

We need to realize, of course, that in this life we can never grow to be completely like Jesus Christ. We are mortal, and, as Paul said, we have all sinned and will continue to sin, no matter how hard we try to obey all of God’s commandments. The important thing is that we do our best, under the circumstances we are in, realizing that some days our best will be great and other days our best won’t be much.

We grow through our experiences, and slowly, quietly, our attitudes, our personalities, our lives change to be more like our Savior. We learn to love God. We learn to obey him because we love him and want to please him. We learn to make him the center of our lives, and we learn to give ourselves to him through love, devotion, obedience, repentance, and service to his children. Our hearts are changed, not because we have to keep his commandments to avoid punishment in hell, but because it is becoming our nature to do those things. We look forward to the judgment when we can stand before God and feel good about coming home.

Help me remember, I implore,
Thou gav’st thy life on Calvary
That I might live forever more
And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.

As I walk daily here on earth,
Give me thy Spirit as I seek
A change of heart, another birth,
And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.

LDS Hymn #171

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